Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Foiling Fungi
03 September 2012

Foiling Fungi

Whether you are breathing in the fresh air of the countryside or the smog of the city, odds are you have inhaled hundreds of spores of fungi. Aspergillus fumigatus is one such fungus. Its coral-like colonies thrive in compost heaps across the country and when inhaled it’s soon destroyed by our immune system. However for people with weakened immunity, such as those with AIDS or leukaemia, this fungus can be deadly. Anti-fungal drugs can be used to combat its destructive effects. Applying one of a family of anti-fungal agents, called echinocandins, results in irrevocable damage by causing the tips of the fungal branches to rupture (seen here highly magnified by electron microscopy). And because they target only the fungal cell wall – the tough outer covering – human cells are left unharmed.

Written by Lux Fatimathas

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